Asia and Pacific

China planning to enforce paid annual leave

Monday February 25, 2013 Dr Guang Yang

China is looking to enforce paid annual leave more rigorously to ensure that most workers can enjoy better holidays by 2020.


Currently, the length of paid annual leave varies, but largely depends on how long one has served in his or her current workplace.  This can be summarised as below:


Length of service in the
current workplace (years)
  Length of paid
annual leave (days)
1-10   5
11-20   10
20+   15


What is the background? There are two main reasons for the most recent call for better enforcement.

  • Domestic tourism in China has become less and less enjoyable because people concentrate on three week-long holidays for travel and leisure activities (the weeks of 1 May, 1 October and Chinese New Year).  This has caused congestion in popular tourist destinations and extra demand for infrastructure and accessibility, which has become unbearable even for Chinese who are used to big crowds.  The enforcement of annual leave entitlement can help spread people’s travel throughout the year rather than concentrating in just three weeks.
  • Although paid annual leave initially started in 1991, in reality it has not been enforced in many places particularly in the private sector.  Various surveys suggest that only 30 to 60 percent of employees enjoy paid annual leaves.  Employees predominantly use public holidays for travel and leisure activities.  The situation has not significantly improved despite that the State Council issued Employees’ Paid Annual Leave Regulations in 2007.

Is the new call relevant for New Zealand?  It can be and is certainly worth further exploring. Although the new call targets improving the domestic tourism situation, it may well affect Chinese international tourist activities.  There has been much discussion around the rise of the middle income population in China.  The middle income population will likely enjoy five to 10 days holiday and this is a good length for an international trip. 


With ease of access and increased exposure to foreign countries, many Chinese, particularly young professionals, have slowly shifting travel patterns – from tiresome weeks’ long overseas sightseeing activities, to more in-depth and/or shorter trips.  The change of tourism behaviours together with the call for enforcing paid annual leave may present opportunities for New Zealand given its easy access and small size.